(CMR) The Department of Environment says results from the 2022 nesting season for Cayman Brac’s Brown Booby colony are grim. Of the 42 eggs identified during the season, only 13 fledged successfully. Many of the eggs were observed to be broken or missing prior to hatching, and a large proportion of the young chicks disappeared, representing a staggering 70% loss.
The 2023 nesting season is underway, and to give these birds the best chance at a successful breeding season, the National Conservation Council has engaged the Departments of Environment and Agriculture to help manage the threat of feral cats and rodents known to hunt in Brown Booby nesting areas.
In the coming weeks, members of the Terrestrial Resources Unit from the Department of Environment will begin feral cat control in the remote, easternmost sections of the Brac Bluff around the lighthouse trail. The control measures, which consist of a humane trap and euthanasia program administered by the Department of Agriculture, will only be active in the remote eastern tip of the island where the greatest concentration of booby nests are located.
No traps will be set in any other parts of the island at this stage. Any microchipped cats trapped will be returned to identifiable owners, though this is not expected in such a remote area.
Rodent control will happen alongside this in the same remote area. The control measures for rodents at this stage will only consist of mechanical snap traps contained in secure bait stations to limit access by any non-target species, such as crabs. Rodenticide (rat poison) will not be used as a control measure at this stage.
According to the Department, around the world, predation by invasive species like cats, rats, and dogs is responsible for the decimation of nesting seabird populations. Feral cats have been recorded on Cayman Brac actively hunting booby parents and chicks, making the impact to our Brown Boobies another reason why cats are identified as one of the leading causes of bird mortality around the world.
Visitors to the area are reminded to keep dogs on a leash and give the Boobies at least 50’ of space to ensure they are not stressed as you pass.
“By working together, we might give our Brown Boobies the relief they need to breed stress-free and begin to recover their colony,” the Department added,
Learn more about the Brown Booby colony in Cayman Brac and five other threatened native nesting seabirds at www.conservation.ky/seabirds